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Trump still owes D.C. $7 million in inauguration costs as he plans July Fourth gala

President Trump is planning to address the nation at the Lincoln Memorial on the Fourth of July.
President Trump is planning to address the nation at the Lincoln Memorial on the Fourth of July. (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Trump’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial on the Fourth of July is expected to drive up security costs for an annual event that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the nation’s capital.

But the president has still not fully paid the bill for the last time he addressed a massive crowd on the Mall: his 2017 inauguration.

The Trump administration and Congress owe D.C. more than $7 million in expenses from Trump’s inauguration, according to federal and city financial records. The total cost of the four-day celebration, which culminated with a parade and gathering of roughly 600,000 people on the Mall, was $27.3 million.

As a result, the District has been forced to dip into a special fund that covers annual security costs for protecting the city from terrorist threats and hosting other events such as demonstrations, state funerals and the visits of foreign dignitaries. That fund, which for years was adequately replenished by federal dollars, is now on track to enter the red by this fall, records show.

The situation is riling local officials, who say the federal government is not shouldering its fair share of security costs in the Trump era, which has seen an influx of demonstrators to the nation’s capital. The Fourth of July is shaping up as yet another logistical trial, with a reconfigured fireworks display, increased security for the president and at least one group of activists already planning a protest.

“We have and will continue to work closely with our federal partners regardless of administration because ensuring the safety of our residents and visitors is paramount,” John Falcicchio, chief of staff to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), said in a statement. “Our commitment to this function is iron clad, and all that we ask of our federal partners is continued cooperation and the resources to carry out these activities.”

A senior Trump administration official said the city was given what it originally requested from the federal government, and that when inauguration costs were greater than expected, the administration “worked closely with D.C.” and decided to use unspent money in the city’s security fund. He added that District officials have not asked for additional money for the inauguration in subsequent budgets.

Trump inserts himself into nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration

City officials disputed the White House account on Friday, saying they had lobbied for additional funding both before the inauguration — when it was already clear the federal reimbursement would be insufficient — and afterward.

Congress originally appropriated roughly $20 million for Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, records show. Although the event was more sparsely attended than either of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations — famously leading to a dispute between White House officials and the Washington press corps over the size of the crowd at Trump’s inaugural address — the costs of hosting it were still formidable.

Most of the expense, about $14 million, came from D.C. police deployments. Among the other line items were fire and emergency medical services, which cost $3.6 million, and transportation services — such as repaving Pennsylvania Avenue for the motorcade — that came to $2.2 million.

The end result was a $7.3 million overrun for the event. That was not unusual: Barack Obama’s second inauguration, in 2013, went over budget by $8.9 million.

But while the Obama White House reimbursed the city’s extra costs through a plan submitted to Congress, the Trump administration has not done so, federal budget documents show. To make up the shortfall, the District tapped its Emergency Planning and Security Fund.

That account is also filled with federal money, but the dollars are supposed to be used for the other security costs the city endures year-round as the nation’s capital. Money for presidential inaugurations typically comes on top of federal payments into the fund.

In the past, the fund has been well-stocked, regularly carrying over unspent money from year to year. But for the past several years, the federal government has been placing less money into the account than the city is spending — in fiscal year 2017, for example, $14.9 million was added to the fund while $24.4 million was spent.

Trump’s plans to take over Fourth of July celebration opposed by D.C. mayor

Costs have risen because of various events, including the heavily attended 2017 Women’s March, a confrontation between protesters and police after a gathering of white supremacists last summer, and the December funeral of former president George H.W. Bush.

In the first quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the District had already burned through $4.4 million of the $14 million in the fund. At that rate the fund could be running a multimillion-dollar deficit by fall.

“The point now is that the account has been drained, and being careful with the money has not been enough to make up for not being reimbursed” for the inauguration, said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the city’s nonvoting representative in Congress.

The fund could go even further into the hole as warm weather brings more demonstrators and other public gatherings to the nation’s capital — and as the city potentially deals with new costs stemming from Trump’s address to the nation on July 4.

The president’s appearance on the Mall is expected to bring with it a host of new security expenses and logistical headaches, requiring security for his movements and potentially cutting off visitors’ access to nearby Metro stations.

No estimate has been produced of the added costs, though National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said security expenses would be shared by the White House, the Park Service and U.S. Park Police.

Norton said the federal government’s failure to repay the city for millions in inauguration costs is one more reason Washingtonians should be leery of Trump’s involvement in the Independence Day celebration.

“We still have not been reimbursed,” Norton said. “And now they’re talking about yet another event of a kind we’ve never had before.”

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